College Isn't Just About Academics

College student success may depend on social interactions

(RxWiki News) The first year of college can be a scary transition as students have to navigate campus, make friends and prepare for class, all on their own. So, what are some tips for success?

A recent study points not to the obvious academic strategies, but to social strategies. These researchers suggest students will enjoy their college experience more by engaging in various social activities.

"Encourage freshmen to reach out to others"

Yi Wang, of both the Departments of Psychology for Peking University in China as well as Bowling Green State University in Ohio led a study of the social behaviors of college freshman.

The researchers wanted to investigate whether social interactions, not just academic behavior, had an impact on a college freshman’s success. Success in college was defined in this study as higher academic performance and engagement in student activities.

This study looked at three behaviors considered proactive for transitioning into a new college environment: feedback seeking, general socializing and relationship building with instructors. The researchers also examined how two personality traits, conscientiousness and extraversion influenced the student’s behavior.

Conscientious people are often described as diligent, dependable and goal-striving. Extraversion is a characteristic that highly social people have; they seek out others and get energy from those interactions.

For the purpose of the study, 291 freshmen at a university in China were randomly recruited to participate in a series of surveys. The freshmen completed surveys at one month after the start of school, three months and then six months after the start of school. The researchers also collected each student’s GPA at that time.

The study found that conscientious students would often seek feedback in order to understand the expectations for classes and set goals. In doing so, they had more chances to interact and develop relationships with their teachers and mentors.

The researchers noticed that seeking feedback from instructors led students to have a higher GPA.

Extroverted freshman often went looking for social interactions, engaging in school gatherings and activities. This general socializing led students to more success in student activities as well as building relationships with instructors and upperclassmen.

The findings of this study emphasize that prosocial behaviors such as seeking feedback, socializing and building relationships with mentors can support a student in a successful college career through higher GPAs and engagement in school activities.

Characteristics like conscientiousness and extraversion motivated students to engage in the prosocial behaviors that eventually led to their success.

While not everyone is naturally conscientious or extroverted, it may be important to encourage those traits in freshman in order for them to have an easier transition to college life.

Seeking feedback, developing relationships and joining social activities may all have a positive impact on a freshman’s experience, even if it isn’t usually in their personality to do those things.

This study became available online in October in the journal of Learning and Individual Differences. The authors made no reports of funding or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 10, 2012